The following is an interview with Varesh Gorabi, one of the youth activists who helped plan the Youth Leadership and Activism Conference *This is not a full transcript of the interview. Some words have been changed for clarity and to avoid repetitions.
Varesh Gorabi, Sophomore at Highland High School
What is the School-to-Prison Pipeline and what most concerns you about this issue?
The School-to-Prison-Pipeline is the one way tunnel from learning at school to going to prison. It’s shocking how fast one can tumble down this tunnel. Even though the school may not know this, one suspension can harm a child’s life. The funny thing is, I was introduced to this topic just this year, but throughout this learning experience, I have remembered events in my childhood that I have never analyzed further. I remember this one kid, who we all called “troublemaker” in our minds, being suspended from school. We didn’t know why, and we didn’t question it further. “Troublemakers” get in trouble and that’s that. I’m not saying this kid is now a “criminal”, I don’t know where he is now. But to think that one suspension could make a kid de-value himself or have negative effects later on…I am glad that there’s research out, that it is now identified as an issue.
It hurts me that some behaviors “natural” to children or part of their learning the rights and wrongs, can be categorized as “evil” or “bad” and could get them suspended. Personally, my brother was always the different kid, the one who thought and acted differently. When a teacher grabbed his shoulder, he got scared and ran away. He was branded a “troublemaker” by the teachers. My point is, labels given to young students can really have an effect on their self-esteem.
Why did you want to get involved with organizing the Youth Leadership and Activism Conference?
I feel like when we’re young, little students in elementary or middle school, we don’t really have a voice. Or at least that’s what I felt. Everyone should know how to make their voice count in this world. Youth especially. I wanted to empower youth like myself. Alone, you don’t know that you can be an activist, but when someone tells you that you can, and people will actually listen to what you have to say, that’s empowering.
Varesh Gorabi, has written an excellent Op Ed published in the Salt Lake Tribune on Feb. 28, “Help us divert students from the school-to-prison pipeline.”